Every seventh grade in my elementary school put on a concert. Classes were paired up, and each pair sang a series of songs and medleys. Each girl in the grade was also given a chance to shine as an individual. Each girl tried out for dance, drama, and solos, and each girl was given at least one individual role.
I had a solo during my class’s scene. It didn’t mean a lot to me on its own – I had no overwhelming ambitions to be a singer. But it was something to be proud of, and I thought my voice was especially suited to the bit I would sing, deep and slow and soulful.
I was bothered because my father would never hear me, since fathers and brothers couldn’t attend a concert where girls would be singing. Though they were allowed to hear their sisters and daughters sing, they were not allowed to hear everyone else’s daughters and sisters sing.
My mother suggested that I simply sing my solo to my father, since I wanted to hear him kvell over me. That wasn’t enough to satisfy me.
I sang all the time at home – in fact, my family was quite sick of all the concert songs by the time my mother and sister heard me on stage because I would hum (or sing at the top of my lungs) as I did my homework, as I did my chores, as I read my books, as I stood in front of the mirror and – okay, I should stop here before I give too much away 😉
But what I wanted was for my father to hear and see me perform. He could hear me sing – but he would never see me on stage, shining in the spotlight. He would never hear my voice ringing out from the speakers and filling the auditorium.
I didn’t want to just sing for him in the living room.
Instead, I waited until the recording of the concert was distributed to us. That night, I sat in my room and fast-forwarded through most of the tape. I found the spot where my solo appears, and carefully played the cassette, rewinding and fast-forwarding until I could stop it just before I started singing.
Then I went down to the kitchen, where my father and mother were talking.
“Can I play my solo for you?” I asked my father. My father and mother exchanged a glance, and I could sense amused indulgence.
I pressed play and hovered over the Walkman, paying careful attention. The full choir joins in almost immediately after my solo, so I had to be prepared to stop the tape in that split second between my voice and theirs.
The whole thing took ten seconds – it wasn’t a very long solo, after all.
“Very nice,” my father said.
I was vaguely satisfied, but felt a little silly. What else did I expect him to say, after all? Still, my father had heard me perform, and as uneventful as it was, as quickly as it was over, it meant something to me.
Images: from my scrapbook, a photo of my class’s choir onstage, and stars my mother made from aluminum foil to hang on the front door after the concert.